From I-Corps Program to Founder

December 5, 2023
6 min read
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Will we ever witness a world where incredible innovations will not have to compete with each other for scale?

  • What is the I-Corps Program?
  • How do I achieve product-market fit?

Recently, we had the pleasure of sitting down with the Co-Founder and CEO of, Shannon Hall, to learn about fermentation and modern manufacturing. We discussed the need for capacity and data in driving efficient processes, shedding light on the challenges faced by scientists and engineers in manifesting their technical solutions into successful products. If any of the above questions piqued your curiosity, keep reading or watch his video below!

"Increased industry functionality is now being complemented with ecological sustainability along the lifespan of products–from production to usage to disposal. The pursuit of environmentally-friendly products and processes is transforming the way we produce and consume."

Kira Noodleman - Partner, Bee Partners

Read more about this industry's anticipated challenges in our Synthetic Biology Insight Paper or more about the mission and vision of on their website.


Shannon Hall, CEO and Co-Founder of, discusses the I-Corps Program, a boot camp aimed at helping scientists and engineers with innovative ideas find their place in the market. The program guides participants to conduct extensive interviews with potential customers to determine if their technology solves a significant problem. Shannon, as an industry mentor, shares her experience in working with a team focused on improving fermentation technology and highlights the importance of capturing and harnessing data in modern manufacturing processes.

She emphasizes the significance of finding the capacity to scale up production and the need to transform innovative ideas into tangible, marketable products by addressing the challenge of limited capacity. Shannon's insights reveal the gap between ideation and actual product manifestation, as well as the growing realization in the industry that innovative tools like CRISPR and sequencing data are only the beginning of the product development process. Ultimately, she emphasizes the potential for to overcome these challenges by bending time, flattening cost curves, and delivering products with sustainable unit economics, thereby meeting market demands and succeeding in the marketplace.

Shannon Hall: Learnings from I-Corps

Identifying Customer Pain Points

The I-Corps Program: Navigating Product-Market Fit

In the world of biotechnology, scientists and engineers often find themselves full of great ideas but unsure of where they fit into the marketplace. The Bay Area's I-Corps Program is a six-week intensive boot camp designed specifically for scientists and engineers with innovative ideas. The program's primary focus is to guide these individuals in understanding product-market fit, a crucial concept in bringing ideas to the marketplace successfully.

During the program, participants are coached to conduct a minimum of a hundred interviews with potential customers. This extensive process aims to help them discern whether their innovative technologies address a pressing problem, an irritating issue, or a non-issue within the market. The distinction between a technical solution and true product-market fit is a key learning outcome from the program, enabling participants to align their ideas with market demands effectively.

Industry Expert Mentorship: Gaining Valuable Insights

A pivotal aspect of the program is the pairing of teams of scientists with industry experts. These mentors bring a wealth of knowledge in business operations and facilitate conversations that lead to meaningful outcomes. Their expertise helps the scientists gain a deeper understanding of the business landscape, guiding them in recognizing the critical factors that contribute to product-market fit.

Shannon's experience as an industry mentor highlights the value of bridging scientific expertise with business acumen. Her involvement allowed her to lend her professional curiosity and leadership experience, guiding a team in navigating the challenges of making fermentation more effective. In fact, the team she was paired with included Ouwei Wang, and that is how they first met. (Little did they know they'd eventually become Co-Founders). Through interviews and discussions, Shannon and the team were able to uncover crucial insights about the fermentation industry's capacity constraints and technological stagnation, paving the way for identifying potential opportunities for innovation.

The Power of External Perspectives: Boundary-Testing for Innovation

Shannon emphasizes the significance of an external perspective in challenging conventional wisdom and boundary-testing the possibilities within biotech innovation. Her ability to ask fundamental questions and challenge established norms provided the team with a fresh outlook, enabling them to reevaluate assumptions and unearth untapped potential.

Did you know that teams who complete the Bay Area NSF I-Corps Method may be eligible to continue to the 7-week National NSF I-Corps program, which includes a non-dilutive $50,000 NSF grant?

She also touches upon the evolving landscape of biotech tools, such as CRISPR technology and advanced sequencing data. While these innovations sparked initial excitement, the realization dawned that successful innovation goes beyond ideation. The crucial need for scalability and production capacity emerged as a pressing concern, highlighting the importance of not only developing groundbreaking technologies but also ensuring their feasible implementation at scale.

Addressing Capacity Shortfalls: A Crucial Factor in Tech Innovation

As the discussion delves into the capacity constraints within biotech, Shannon underscores the growing realization among innovators regarding the inadequacy of manufacturing capacity. This capacity shortfall emerged as a significant hindrance, amplifying the importance of finding efficient, scalable solutions to bring innovative products to the market.

Shannon's insights shed light on the pivotal role of capacity in overcoming the barriers to product realization. The ability to address capacity constraints not only accelerates the product development timeline but also influences the overall economics and market viability of these innovations.

Conclusion: Navigating the Path to Market Success

The journey from idea to market in biotech is multifaceted, requiring a deep understanding of product-market fit, the collaboration of industry experts, the challenge of conventional wisdom, and the addressing of crucial capacity constraints. Shannon's experiences within the I-Corps program provide valuable insights into the complexities and opportunities within the biotech industry, emphasizing the importance of aligning innovative ideas with market needs and addressing the practical challenges of product realization.

In conclusion, the journey from idea to market in biotech is not just about innovation; it's about understanding the market, fostering collaboration, challenging norms, and addressing critical bottlenecks. By navigating these complexities, biotech innovators can not only bring their ideas to fruition but also ensure their success in the marketplace, driving meaningful advancements in the field of biotechnology.

4 Key Takeaways:

  • Talk With Customers: The I-Corps program emphasized the importance of understanding customer needs and pain points to ensure a product's market fit and ultimate success. If her team had not interviewed enough potential customers, it would have been tougher to distinguish between just a good technical solution and product-market fit.
  • Collaborate With Industry Experts: This provides valuable insights for Shannon's team of scientists, enhancing their understanding of business matters and company operations. This partnership resulted in fruitful outcomes and strategies for developing and implementing their innovative ideas.
  • Don't Be Afraid To Innovate In An Unfamiliar Industry: Embracing an outsider's perspective can allow for questioning conventional wisdom and challenging existing beliefs to uncover opportunities for advancement and improvement in most any field.
  • Understand Your Unit Economics: Shannon and her team spent time ideating on how to achieve viable unit economics and flattening customer cost curves. Making this priority can enable successful product placement in the marketplace, highlighting the importance of economic viability for product success.

Shannon and Ouwei came through our third fund, and since the investment, the team has continued to grow its service and personnel. Click here to learn more about the Company and Team, or here if you are a Founder innovating in any of our three vectors.

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